The DIY Duo’s Rules

Kim and Scott Vargo of Yellow Brick Home share advice on tackling DIY projects you can actually finish.


In this era of Pinterest-inspired crafts and TV home makeovers that play out in 30 minutes, many of us have assembled long  lists of potential DIY projects to pursue. Few of us actually execute like popular bloggers Kim and Scott Vargo of Yellow Brick Home, however. Reupholster a tattered chair—found on Craigslist—in sumptuous velvet? Check. Rewire a metal pendant light scored at a street sale? They’ve done it.

Admittedly, the pair is better equipped than most for turning DIY dreams into reality: Kim runs the couple’s photo-printing  and pet-portrait studio and has a strong artistic side, while naturally handy Scott spends weekends wielding power tools. Both love design, but enjoy the creative process as much as the end results. “We both come from the same frame of mind; DIY is an option that makes something more personal,” says Kim. And the key to completion is selecting projects of the right scope for their living space, a 675-square-foot home they share with three pets.

The blogger duo’s Perfectly Paired collection debuted on Joss & Main March 21, featuring a mix of gorgeous accents and project-ready finds (including power tools, a farmhouse sink, and funky drawer pulls).  Ready to dive into a project of your own? Before you get started, consider Kim’s essential rules for doing it yourself.

Start with a concrete plan.
To make sure a you have a strong sense of a project’s scope, it helps to finalize all details, including measurements and materials, before any actual work begins. “We don’t start a project unless we’ve talked about it and agreed on it,” explains Kim. Whether you’re painting a side table or constructing built-ins, making key decisions right away not only finalizes the project plan, but provides a mental blueprint to keep you motivated along the way. “It’s always worth it in the end when you see the result and what you’ve achieved.”

Be realistic.
Diving in before the logistics have been worked out is always a mistake, as it’s easy to find yourself deep in a project you have no clue how to finish. Before committing to a project, Kim always likes to give herself a reality check. “Do we have the time, resources and money to take it on?” she asks. Consider safety issues, hidden costs, and whether the end results will be worth the energy. It’s also important to know when it’s time to call in a pro. After struggling to install crown molding in their home office, Kim and Scott finally made the call. “We couldn’t get it to work properly and it was not worth ruining our marriage over,” she laughs. “So we brought in a professional. He finished it in two hours.”

Be flexible with your budget.
Kim and Scott set a budget for every project, but they always build in wiggle room. “Plan for incidentals,” Kim warns, such as unforeseen repairs and supplies needed to finish a job properly.  Sure, you planned to spend on paint, but did you consider the cost of rollers and brushes? “There are always things that you don’t think about,” says Kim. Upgrades can also come into play: If a higher-grade wood or an expertly mixed paint color will make your project exponentially better, you should consider splurging, Kim notes.

Take your time.
No matter how eager you are to see the fruits of your labor, allow yourself enough time to complete each step. “One of the easiest things people can do is paint a piece of furniture,” says Kim. But she frequently hears about chipped dressers and streaky side tables because DIYers didn’t take the time to sand and prime. Always be sure to cut your fabric slowly, measure that piece of wood three times, and fill in dents before you take a can of spray paint to that hand-me-down, she advises. You’ll be glad you did.

Take creative gambles.
Taking risks is what DIY is all about. “Regardless of whether something works out, we follow it through to completion,” says Kim, who admits to selling her less-than-perfect projects at yard sales. But trying something new is always a step in the right direction. Kim and Scott broke from their usual masculine-meets-feminine style for Kim’s studio, which is brimming with pink hues and girly details. Kim credits the design’s success to their willingness to try something unexpected. “Go ahead and be as creative as you want to be,” she says. “With all the blogs in the world, people tend to get lost in what others like. Be true to yourself. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.” 

–Erica Marcus